Winter Rose

“And there is a flower that strangely loves the bitterness of winter and blooms through the crystal of ice. It is the Christmas Rose, with a history worth telling…” The Christmas Rose, self-published by Arthur E. and Mildred V. Luedy (1948)

Just as February is coming to an end, the Lenten Rose or Hellebores’ beautiful blooms pop up from the hard cold earth to give us hope for spring. Living on the east coast, the Hellebore has become one of my early spring favorite plants. They give us subtle colors and incredible detail when the garden is drab and dull. They have a rich and interesting history and are great to enjoy outside zones 3-7 or indoors as potted plants. Let’s review some of their fun facts, gardening tips, and ways to photograph. 

You may have heard the common names of  Hellebores, Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose. These are varieties of the Hellebores and have been named based on the time of year that they bloom, but these plants are not in the rose family. The plants are actually part of the Ranunculaceae family of plants, including Buttercups, Ranunculus, and Clematis. The Hellebore resembles some of the best features of each of their sister plants. They are perennials that are shade tolerant, animal resistant, and evergreen.  It is important to note that while they look so pretty, the plants are toxic when eaten by humans and pets. Most animals avoid them due to their bitter taste. 

Native to Mediterranean Europe, the flowers are noted in Ancient Greece mythology and history. They are many stories and historical myths about Hellebores. Here are a few fun facts: 

  • Hippocrates used the plants as ancient, medicinal laxatives. 
  • Athenians used them as a biological weapon causing their foes to get sick due to the plants’ toxic nature.
  • In the middle ages, it is told that they were used as witchcraft to drive away evil spirits

If you enjoy gardening, consider adding these flowers to your shade garden will bring some color in the dark, dull days of winter. The plants are easy to grow. Consider these short facts and then visit this page for lots of additional details

  • They grow best in Zone 3-7 in the U.S. 
  • The plant is shade-loving and works great in shade gardens planted under trees or other large shrubs.
  • Blooms last  2-3months and really bring your winter garden to life. 
  • Always use gloves when handling as stems and roots are poisonous.
  • Low maintenance and will return year after year.

If you don’t have access to these plants locally, many garden centers and even grocery stores will carry the potted plants in late winter. They are a fun addition to bring inside to enjoy and photograph. Just keep them away from pets and children. 

Photographing these beautiful plants is the fun part!

  • Capture their winter beauty naturally in the garden. They will be low to the ground, and the blooms tend to flop. I would encourage bringing knee pads or a blanket to help as you get down low to shoot the blooms. 
  • If you can cut stems and blooms to bring them indoors or purchase a potted plant, you can really experience their beauty and all the details. 
  • Capturing the cut stems allows you to photograph the blooms wide open. Using a macro lens or extension tubes on a regular lens will allow you to get in close and see all the details of these little flowers. 
  • Using flower vases, garden trays, or books to create beautiful still-life scenes with the flower stems. These flowers have an old-world, vintage look to them and are beautiful for still-life images. 
  • If you can shoot the flowers on a light pad, lightbox, or white background, you can bring out all the detail in the blooms.

I hope you can enjoy these early spring blooms where you live.  Check out my Pinterest Board for more spring bloom inspiration! 

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